Contemporary Scripture Reflections for Spiritual Seekers
Dr. Elizabeth-Anne Stewart, BCC, PCC
June 5th, 2022
Pray that
sanity will prevail and that all those suffering on account of the terrible conflict in Ukraine will find the comfort and resources they need.  

Excerpt from
EAS C.1999

Until recently, theology has largely neglected pneumatology, that is, the doctrine of the Spirit, with the result that Christianity has appeared "uninspired and jaded at times." Marie-Henry Keane, O.P., quoting Gregory of Nazianzus' term, Theos Agraptos (the God about whom nobody writes), explains the consequences of this forgetting of the Spirit:

"We lacked the creative energy which only the Spirit of Life could give. Furthermore, we had forgotten how to pray, "Come, Holy Spirit, renew the face of the earth." As individuals and communities, we are often lack-lustre."

Western Christianity has tamed the Holy Spirit into Comforter and Guide, but there is another Spirit dimension that more clearly fits our theme: that of Intoxicator. By focusing on the behaviors and attitudes of those upon whom the Spirit rests, we will see her manifestations include rashness, spontaneity, self-abandonment and seeming drunkenness. The Holy Spirit cannot be contained or limited; nor are the effects of the Spirit predictable and controllable. Rather, when the Holy Spirit is active, the irrational prevails...

This freeing power --as indicated by the ninth century hymn, Veni Creator-- bends what is stiff, warms what is cold and guides what has gone astray. That which is frozen melts; that which is fossilized becomes animated; that which is rigid gains flexibility; that which is captive breaks loose.
According to the hymn text, this living water, this flame of Love and spiritual anointing, drives away the "enemy," the source of all harm. Though the nature of the enemy is not specified, it could be inferred that it represents all that is antithetical to Love, to Light and to Divine Empowerment. This enemy could therefore be described as the inclination towards ennui, apathy, lack of commitment, emotional disengagement, repression, egotism, myopia, rigidity, fear, conformity, despair, and lifelessness...

If the legacy of the Spirit is life itself, then it is little wonder that Paul VI, echoing the sentiments expressed by John XXIII, declared that "the Church needs a perpetual Pentecost." The Holy Spirit is what imparts a quiver of joy, a sense of celebration and festival, a taste of carnival, an impulse towards Dionysian revelry.


  • How do YOU define "Church" and what is the relationship between your definition of "Church" and the Feast of Pentecost?

  • To what extent do you invoke the Holy Spirit in your prayer?

  • On a scale of 1-10, with 10 being the highest, how passionate are you about your Baptismal commitment?

  • What gifts of the Holy Spirit do you need in your life at the present time?

We mourn the loss and celebrate the life of
Marlene Schemmel, CSJ
June 12, 1937-May 29, 2022

Marlene, a faithful supporter of Sunday BibleTalk and a member of the Congregation of St. Joseph for 67 years, was the co-founder of The Well Spirituality Center in LaGrange, Il. We extend our deepest sympathy to her family and her community.

Greetings, SBT Readers!

Camera in hand, yesterday I went hiking in Starved Rock State Park, IL, giving my soul the opportunity to catch up with my feet (a "borrowed" expression). I had actually hoped for some contemplative time, but there were so many groups behind me and ahead of me on the trails that "quiet" was not one of my "take-aways." Instead, I found myself focusing on trees, canyon walls, innumerable wooden stairways, and the people -- all kinds of people, of every age, race, and ethnicity, all walking at different paces, some holding tots while others tried to keep up with dogs on leashes. It was truly remarkable to see so many hikers keeping fit, enjoying themselves while immersing themselves in nature. Everything was peaceful -- just as it should have been.

What a contrast my hiking experience was to the mayhem that is happening across this country. The same diversity I experienced on the trails has manifested in the victims and perpetrators of violent crimes, especially in gun violence. Sadly, even while the parents of Uvalde are burying their children, there have been more mass shootings, murders and crime sprees. One story that caught my attention last week was the attack on the Dallas Museum of Art which resulted in the destruction of ancient Greek artifacts worth $5M. When interrogated, the offender -- 21 year old Brian Hernandez-- claimed he destroyed the artifacts because he was mad at his girl. In his mug shot, Brian stares blankly, defiantly, at the camera, no light in his eyes or any visible sign of remorse. "What was he thinking?" I wonder. But then again, what were they all thinking --all the angry men who decided to channel their hatred into slaughtering the innocent? The fact is they are neither thinking nor feeling. Devoid of empathy, they cut short the lives of as many people as they can -- or they smash museum display cabinets housing archeological treasures. Hernandez was mad at his girl, Payton Gendron was mad at black people and Michael Louis was mad at his surgeon. Clearly, mass shooters have anger issues and turn to violence because they know no other way. Perhaps it's time for schools to incorporate anger management and non-violent communication in the curriculum -- starting in pre-school. Or perhaps doctors could start prescribing a hike in the woods or an art class as part of a healing regimen. By all means, let's ban assault rifles but let us also teach the way of peace.

Many Blessings!


On the evening of that first day of the week,
when the doors were locked to the place where the disciples were, because they were afraid, Jesus came and stood in their midst and said to them, “Peace be with you.”
When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. The disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord.
Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you.
As the Father has sent me, so I send you.”
And when he had said this, he breathed on them, saying,
“Receive the Holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive they are forgiven, and whose sins you retain they are retained.”
Jn 20:19-23

I am always struck by the locked doors in this Gospel narrative. The disciples have huddled in the upper room, barricading themselves in because they fear that the religious leaders will come to arrest them. Understandably, they are distraught over Jesus' arrest, torture and execution; despite the discovery of the empty tomb and Mary Magdalene's account of seeing the Lord, they are caught between heartbreak and hope. An empty tomb, after all, is no guarantee that Jesus has risen from the dead and as for Mary Magdalene's message, that could be the product of wishful thinking. Fear, then, is the dominant emotion -- fear that this is indeed the end of everything Jesus represented and of everything they believed in. You could say that in addition to the doors being locked, their minds are locked. No longer believing the Good News, they are incapable of imagining a new future that holds promise, meaning and purpose.

Locked doors, however, are no obstacle to the Risen Christ. Standing in the midst of his friends, he calms their fears and lets them see that He is no ghost. Then, when they finally believe, He breathes the Holy Spirit upon them. This Breath "re-creates" the disciples, setting them free from all that binds them, limits them, or terrifies them. It is a liberating Breath, a creative Breath, a dynamic Breath, one which animates dry bones, energizes and restores, burning away grief, fear and despair, re-kindling passion, awakening memories of all they have witnessed and of all they have learned. This empowering Breath casts out all pettiness, all negativity, all egocentricity. It missions and commissions, bestowing the courage the disciples need to leave the smallness of that barricaded room; on fire with Divine Love, they can now embrace the world in Jesus' Name, continuing the work of healing that He began in their company.

Pentecost reminds us of the moment of the Church's birth. The feast is not a celebration of rules, regulations, policies and procedures; nor is it dependent upon buildings and hierarchical structures. Rather, it reminds us that "Church" is bigger than a material construct, that it exists wherever people of good will are open to the Spirit of God. For Jesus did not found an institution but a movement of Love and Truth that has its locus in the human heart. Initiation into this movement involves turning from sin (the "glamor of evil") and following The Way (the Kingdom of God as manifested by Jesus), through the power of the Holy Spirit. While baptismal waters symbolize the death to the old self, it is the flame of the baptismal candle that represents burning zeal, purified will, the desire to be possessed by the very Spirit of God. Sadly, our observance of Pentecost and our ritualizing of the sacraments of Baptism and Confirmation are lukewarm at best, most likely because we have forgotten the awesome power we are invoking-- that dynamic creative force that once hovered over the churning waters of Genesis, giving form to the formless and fullness to the void; that flowing, dancing, cleansing whirlwind that bursts open locked doors and barred windows, shattering the status quo and ushering in a new era; that force of creation and re-creation that invites, nudges, pushes, propels, turns upside down and inside out, shattering expectations and defying all logic... When we pray, Veni, Sancte Spiritus, we are invoking nothing less than surprise, challenge and transformation; we are calling down the very Power of God to seize us, enflame us and raise us beyond our fears and limited thinking. Veni, Sancte Spiritus...

Try my Spiritual Self-Assessment Tool! After you take the Quiz, you will automatically receive a computer-generated analysis of your strengths and "growing edges."


If you belong to a ministry team (pastoral team, retreat team, liturgical team, chaplaincy team, administrative team, environmental team, etc.) I would welcome your feedback regarding a Ministry Team Assessment Tool I have developed. If this interests you, please click on my newly updated website, and click on the MINISTRY TEAM ASSESSMENT QUIZ. Thanks for considering this!

Please note that I offer Writing Coaching/ Editing, in addition to Life Coaching, Spiritual Direction, and Retreats.
Wednesdays, July 6th-August 10th, 2022; 6:00-7:30 p.m. EST
This video explains my approach to this ministry, while my website provides further details as well. During COVID-19, sessions are by phone or on Zoom; I am also available to facilitate "virtual" retreats for groups and individuals.
Dr. Elizabeth-Anne Stewart | |

C. All Photos by Elizabeth-Anne Stewart,